It’s only two more weeks until the summer holidays will start. Six weeks of no school – that means we get to sleep in on some days, and have time for fun activities and a week of vacation in France. It also means having to navigate working-at-home-days with two kids around, and managing personal irritation levels throughout that time.
To be fair, they’re 7 and 10 now (already?!) and they generally manage to get along reasonably well (better than I used to when my little brother and I were about that age!) but when annoyance gets the upper hand, things get nasty very quickly. I’m sure it’s recognizable 😉 .
So I’ve been building in room for less pressure – only two custom orders per month. That gives me the freedom to move things around a bit, and not “having to finish” so many things at once. It also leaves me time to work on my own projects. Currently I have pieces of Lothlorien Vale and Misty Mountains Namárië ready to be sewn up. There will be two custom orders made out of these fabrics, and I had enough left for my own creations. At least one will probably be available via draw to purchase in the Tenshi Treasures Talk group – so if you’re not in there, go check it out!
While I’m sewing away on my various projects I can be certain I’ll get comments like “Mom, I’m bored!”. Unfortunately for my kids, I lack empathy 😉 and always tell them that if all the toys in their room can’t keep them entertained, they’re free to list them on our local online market place and sell them. If they do it, it’ll get their rooms ever so much tidier and less cluttered. Chances are high they’ll encounter some long forgotten fun item to play with along the way too. And if they don’t, I’ve at least given them an option, and they’ll mope around for a bit, and then decide to go outside and see who they can find to hang out with.
So yeah – less is more. Less clutter, less pressure, less “must”.
Now if only I were better at following my own advice… I just remembered I also “need” to make two camera straps (one for my future camera that I have my eye on, and one for our new binoculars…). Ah well. We’ll have to start with the good intentions and see where we end, won’t we?
Even when we have no idea whatsoever what this year is going to be like, that won’t stop us from making resolutions (if you’re the type of person who does that – I’m not) or just looking ahead and make plans.
I don’t “do” new years resolutions because I firmly believe in applying any resolutions Right Now instead of postponing them. That, and I find it just doesn’t work for me. I just do what needs to be done when I’m ready for it. Well, most of the time I do. I try ;).
I’m very happy with my new schedule, planning 3 orders a month and then having some wiggle room for adding extras. I have a ridiculous amount of fabric “in stock” because I very much enjoy buying beautiful pieces of fabric, and every time I do that, I want to craft with it. With a filled-to-the-brim custom order list, I didn’t have any time for that, but now I do and it keeps me very motivated.
For this month I have a beautiful red piece on my ‘extras’ list, and another one pre-cut for when I have the time for it. Yes, that means I’ll have a few items to add to the shop, every now and then. If I can keep them out of my daughter’s reach, because she loves to take whatever it is I’m making, and then declaring it hers.
I may regret saying this 😉 but if there’s anything that you’d love to have me make from fabric I have in stock, let me know and who knows, I might add it to my extras list to make whenever I feel like it. Either way I love hearing from you all, so drop me a message or post in my group (you can find Tenshi Treasures Talk here)!
Whoa – before you know it, it’s September! My kids are (thankfully) going back to school, sports have started again too (much to the delight of my youngest who has “finally” – she’s 5 – started swimming lessons) and I’m looking forward to spending a bit more time on sewing stuff :).
And not to forget – I’d promised to open up the custom orders list sometime in the Autumn! I’m thinking it might well be November before I’m ready to do that, and the slots will be for January and February. This will allow scraps to arrive in a timely fashion (although shipping in November/December is always a bit of a gamble).
Closing down the order list has been a very good decision for me. I’ve also had an average of 5-6 orders each month where I usually try to have a maximum of 4, which hasn’t helped with the feeling of being a bit overwhelmed. I have a poor little bunny still waiting to be finished but I am starting to feel more on top of things again, which is nice.
In the meantime I’ve been making a cute little Scottish Terrier (among other things) that will not be added to my portfolio to be available for custom orders, but I just might be persuaded to make another one, if you ask nicely. They’re not too complicated (as opposed to the unicorns or foxes) so it’s nice to have a simple pattern every now and then.
And I really should trim down my collection of fabrics – it’s nice to be able to offer such a diverse selection to customers, but it’s not the best thing, business wise, to have so much money tied up in fabric. On the other hand I just keep buying new ones so I’m not quite sure if it will actually be helpful if I try to thin it down a bit! I’ll be uploading pictures of my new acquisitions soon, because I haven’t added them to the albums yet. Some rainbow stuff, as well as some of Oscha’s very last Sea Island Cotton warp – very special (and expensive) stuff!
I usually tend to think that whatever happens, it’ll be all right. Some way or another. And it usually does, confirming that I’m right. Usually.
But every now and then things don’t go as expected and that throws off the existing balance enough that it takes more time to recover that balance – which is where I am now. I’ve taken on some extra work in the assumption that it’d be okay… but this time I may have to alter my plans a bit, because somehow I am, apparently, not Superwoman and I can’t do everything I WANT to do in the time that is available to me.
So – unfortunately that means no extra slots in the foreseeable future (sorry). I have a delay in the current flow of things, but should be able to get things in order by the end of next month (I hope ;)). And there’s a lesson learned: don’t plan so many orders in advance, especially in May! Because May is the month that both of my kids are celebrating their birthdays and with everything indoors practically being closed this year, we had to organise their birthday parties ourselves.
That wasn’t a big issue really, but it was VERY time consuming and I underestimated exactly how much time it would take to get everything in order. A five year old has different demands for her birthday party than an eight year old so there was no way we could recycle stuff, haha. However all kids had a great day and we were exhausted but satisfied afterwards. Needless to say though that I’m looking forward to being able to outsource most of it next year, haha.
So I aim to finish half of this months’ orders by the end of this month (ooooo not much time left) and then finish the other half in time with the orders for next month by the end of, well, next month. Hopefully I’ll be back on track by July when I’ll be celebrating my own birthday (or not…) and who knows, I may take on some new orders for next year sometime this Autumn!
First blog of the year! I vividly remember admiring the women (I’ve looked, but haven’t found any men to refer to) in the babywearing community who had managed to set up their own shop, working with treasured wrap materials, making keepsakes for their customers. I ordered from a quite a few of them – some items I still use on a regular basis.
I’d never thought I’d be one of them, creating meaningful items for others who have loved their babywearing journey, long or short, as much as I have. But here we are! And I’m loving it! However, I’m also experiencing some growing pains as my time is limited but the demand is ever growing.
So I have decided (after a much-needed push from a dear friend) to raise my prices to reflect the significant amounts of time I put into each and every one of them, and to cut a few patterns from the collection. You can still find them on the website and in the albums on my Facebook page (the two go hand in hand), but I’ve removed them from the price list and they will not be available anymore – you can’t order them.
I’m sorry if I’ve removed one of your favorite animals, but they were probably removed because they take up too much time (and I don’t think anyone would be willing to pay € 200 for an animal? If you do please let me know and I’d happily make one for you!) or do not appeal to me as much as the others. Limiting the amount of options I offer also makes things more manageable for me, while still having some variety available.
Right now, my custom order list for this year is FULL. I can’t take on any new orders and will not start planning for 2022 just yet. But do feel free to message me if you’re interested and I can put you on my reminder list, to let you know when ordering is open again. I also hope to be able to put up some surprise custom slots later this year, whenever I have the time. I haven’t decided on a format yet but you’ll probably have to keep an eye on my Facebook page and act quick to get one. They will probably be limited to a few patterns only, but I just don’t want to have to disappoint everyone who’s asking for a custom order this year. I know how frustrating it can be to fall in love with something, only to hear you can’t have it (for a long time to come)!
I’ve thought for a while about this blog post. It started out as a post about pricing. But I didn’t want to seem defensive about my prices. They are what they are. I try to keep them low yet still make it worth my time and effort. Some people are put off by them, and others are happy to pay. Either because they realise what it takes to create their personal treasure, or because they simply find it worth their money.
So I decided to call this blog post ‘Creation process’. I’ll take you along on my creation journey and show you a bit of the love and care that go into my Treasures.
Whenever I get new scraps and wraps, I wash them. I wash them on the settings I recommend for my finished items: low temperature wool wash, low spin, no tumble drying. Even the most delicate fabrics have successfully survived this slightly irreverent treatment. Except the one time I made a mistake and thought I could wash a wool/silk blend on the silk setting. Silly me. Learn from my mistakes and don’t do that, or if you do, dial down the spin cycle!
After they’re washed, I apply a layer of interfacing – my go to brand is Vlieseline H180. It’s the most light-weight version they offer. It prevents fraying and adds durability to the finished product. And a nice bonus is that it allows me to draw out my pattern pieces on it in a very clear way (I use the white version ;)). I’ve used other brands’ interfacing but although they’re cheaper, I have found them to be of a lesser quality as well.
Once I have then traced the required pattern pieces, I cut them (I use scissors for that, too many small pieces and odd curves for my beloved rotary cutter). And then the fun starts – the sewing part! I use polyester Gütermann thread for it. They have very nice cotton thread too, but for the sake of durability, I use polyester. All seams are sewn twice (again, for extra durability). It may take more time this way, but my Treasures are made to last a lifetime – literally.
If you happen to have one of my older creations, it might be that the seams are not sewn over twice, or that it has cotton thread instead of polyester. They should still last a good long time, but if there are ever any issues, let me know and we’ll figure something out!
Once I’ve finished sewing, it’s usually time for stuffing. The merino wool (mulesing free, of course) is lovely to work with. It stuffs quite firmly but keeps a nice ‘spring’ to it. Then the final steps are to close the stuffing gap and if I haven’t done that already, to add finishing touches like a nose or eyes, usually felt ones, sometimes plastic ones.
Finally, your item is lovingly wrapped up in Kraft paper. I add my card with name, fabric composition and care instructions, and finally I add some chocolate – I’ve found some wonderful local chocolate makers who not only packages their product in eco packaging, they produce very eco friendly too! And I like the taste of their chocolate ;).
When I started making stuffed animals, I had seen other makers creating their wonderful animals, bags and other items using wrap scrap. I had also seen their prices and their waiting list and was secretly hoping that I might one day be as successful as they were.
Well – to my surprise I have come to the point that my waiting list (in September 2020) is reaching all the way into June 2021! That requires a big THANK YOU to all of you who supported me and shared my creations everywhere. I love doing this and I’ll keep doing it as long as I can!
That said I may close the list for a while, because I don’t want to get too overwhelmed with a waiting list that reaches more than a year ahead. I haven’t decided yet, and who knows, maybe I won’t be getting any more inquiries for the next couple of months, allowing me to catch up a bit ;).
Regarding prices – well, I’ve had my share of ‘oh, that’s pretty expensive’ comments. And I understand that all too well. My lovely mom has referred a number of people to my website, but they were not babywearers and they were put off by the prices ;). I get that – why spend 30+ euros on something when you can get something similar at the store for half the price?
So I thought I’d maybe do another blog soon about what goes into the creation of a Tenshi Treasure. I realise that my work will stay exclusive to the babywearing world at this point but I’m fine with that – I feel at home there and ‘us babywearers’ know about the memories a piece of babywearing fabric can contain.
I was asked if I manage to ‘nail’ patterns the first time I make them (I wish!)… and I thought it’d be a good subject for a blog entry.
The short answer is: no, I don’t. Depending on the pattern and the maker, I usually manage to make something that looks decent and sometimes they even look really good ;). But I always find bits that are fiddly or things I prefer to do in another order, or in another way, to help me make my custom orders just that much better-looking.
The creations I make for the first time are usually available for purchase at a discount, because they’re usually not entirely up to my standards. Most of the time I don’t add any additional cost for the scrap I’ve used and just sell it at the regular price that’s listed in my custom order price list. Sometimes, if I find ‘flaws’, they’ll be further discounted… or I let my children have it, because they are always demanding dibs whenever I finish one!
Sometimes, if a pattern appeals to me but doesn’t give me the exact outcome I’d prefer, I make some changes to the pattern pieces. I never try to ‘take credit’ for the patterns though, I know how much time and effort actually goes into creating a new pattern, so I always try to remember to credit the original maker. Occasionally I leave out a few details, like the belly ‘striping’ on the fat dragons, because I find that the often busy patterns on the fabric I work with are enough and adding the extra details doesn’t add anything to the final creation. One of my most heavily edited patterns would be the horse/unicorn pattern. It was a bit of a pain to edit the pattern, but I absolutely believe it was worth it!
The lion pattern featured above is from Funky Friends Factory. These patterns are so very well written and include very helpful diagrams and pictures, that I never hesitate when I’m asked to add a new animal to the zoo if it’s from Pauline. But I’ve been asked to add others and sometimes I end up not adding them. I will re-create one when I’m specifically asked to do so, but usually at a higher-than-normal cost because they’re more complicated to make and take up a considerable chunk of time to do. And very rarely, I just don’t really like what I’ve made, and don’t fancy doing it again. Especially when there are so many other creations I can make that ARE fun to do!
I love to fiddle around with stuff. Make it júst so, have things aligned in an esthetically pleasing way. This doesn’t only go for pattern alignment, but seams too – there are few things as satisfying as perfectly aligned seams.
Paper & cardboard pattern pieces
Usually when I prepare a new pattern, I print the pattern on regular A4 size paper. Then I back it with cardboard, straight from the printer or after I’ve roughly cut the pieces out to save cardboard. After that I cut them out on the lines and then I’m ready to go to test this new pattern. However, it’s not ideal when it comes down to the perfect pattern placement on my pieces. I keep shuffling them around, tracing them with Frixion pens so I can ‘erase’ the ink and try again if it’s not perfect.
And one day I found the perfect alternative – pattern plastic! Okay, maybe not the best choice when it comes down to sustainability and eco-friendliness, but these DO stay good a whole lot longer than my cardboard pieces. They show some definite signs of wear and tear already, and because I now trace my pattern pieces onto the plastic (no printing them, sadly), I can print double sided, which saves paper!
Someone pointed out to me that I might want to consider using a beamer. While it probably works great for sewing clothes, I don’t think that it’s the best option for making stuffies that require specific pattern placement. I don’t quite see myself moving pattern outlines around digitally… but who knows, in a couple of years there may be a solution to fit my needs.
I’ve been using my transparent pieces for a couple of months now and I must say that I love using them. It makes placement so much easier and it helps my customers to envision what their custom order may end up looking like! It’s not always easy because I’m very familiar with all the individual pieces but they are not, or course. For some creations it’s easier than others – the turtles have very straightforward shell and belly pieces! But the foxes are a lot more complex so that requires some imagination. Fortunately I have enough examples by now to be able to give people a good impression :).
Pattern plastic may not be the best idea for the casual home-crafter who just likes to make something for him/herself, but if you plan to re-use patterns a lot and need exact pattern placement, I’d say this is an excellent option to consider.
I have been resizing patterns almost from day one, when I discovered that the cute little hedgehog I thought I was making turned out to be a small-pillow-sized giant hedgehog! So I downsized the pattern to a smaller, more practical size and I’ve been doing it with suitable patterns ever since.
For example, I’ve made smaller foxes (I used to have a size smaller even, but they’re just too fiddly to make so I stopped doing those). I have done smaller whales (a nice ‘scrap buster’ for when you have matching tapers and no idea what to do with them) and will do smaller narwhals. However I’d never made an existing pattern larger before and I really wanted to try it. So when I got my hands on a size 8 (5,7m of fabric!) Sonsie Agnes I decided to go for it. I would upsize the Pig (by DIY Fluffies) to as big as I thought she could go*, taking the usual wrap width into account. (*Without adding extra seams to join fabric.)
I think Agnes ended up eating a whopping 5,5 kilograms of wool (so she got expensive real fast!). She took about a long size 3 (3,5m) worth of fabric to make. Enlarging the pattern was a challenge too. I had to find a way to blow it up which was easy enough. But then I had to somehow divide it into A3-sized pieces for printing (I shamelessly abused my employer’s printer for that). But when I got the hang of it, Photoshop was, as always, my friend.
Adding interfacing to 3,5 metres of fabric was a bit of a chore (it’s really boring work). Halfway through I realised that because the pattern pieces are so large, I could have gotten away with just interfacing the edges of the pieces I needed… With the smaller patterns it’s not worth the trouble but the Big Pig was pretty straightforward. It might have saved some interfacing but in the end I decided to put it on every bit of it – if only for durability.
It’s not just a matter of resizing…
It was nice for a change to be able to sew long stretches, at speed! I always have to fiddle around corners and making the parts with multiple layers of fabric behave. At this scale, sewing the pattern pieces together was about as straightforward as it gets! However I then discovered that ears this big really need a stiffer type of interfacing to stay up instead of drooping down (so I ended up stuffing them). Then I also discovered that the stubby legs wouldn’t hold the weight of the rest of the pig (lucky they’re very short so it isn’t very noticeable). Finally I came to the conclusion that it’s hard to stuff a really big hollow space nicely. The stuffing just won’t stay in the smaller parts (i.e. the nose!) unless you stuff it Very Very Firmly. Which is probably why I ran out of wool.
And when it was finally completed and all sewn up, I found out that it was impossible to find a box to send it in – because I intended to send it to Oscha. Shipping was incredibly expensive too because it was considered ‘oversized’ cargo – ouch. But it finally worked out! I wrapped her up in a couple of garbage bags for protection instead of using a box. Then somebody referred me to a shipping company that offered competitive prices so off she went, ‘little’ Agnes, to Oscha Slings Headquarters in Scotland. A present from the Oscha Slings International Community admins. Agnes was received with delight and some squeals, or so I’ve been told 😉 but I don’t think I’ll do another one this size again soon!